Connect to share and comment

Opinion: How women became warriors in Iran

No strangers to struggle, they have been a driving force behind the Green Movement and on the front lines of post-election protests.


President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's declaration of an overwhelming victory, however, was a big blow to their hopes. They now feel betrayed and dejected. One friend who supported Mousavi told me two days before the election that if Mousavi didn’t win, she wouldn’t stay in Iran for a moment longer. 

Times change

When in 1979 the Iranian Revolution took place, all people who participated had one vision in mind: Get rid of the despotic Shah and replace him with democracy. But the revolution had a different outcome. Velayat-e Faqih — the current ruling system — gives power to the Supreme Leader. So in a way Iranians, after so much bloodshed and hard work, have accepted what could be considered little change.

But how could today, if the uprising were to result in big changes, be any different? The answer lies within the family structure in Iran. In 1979, even though a revolution took place, patriarchy was at the heart of many families. The mindset was that in families, fathers and husbands had the last word. It was a pyramid-shaped system, where men were at the top. They were in most cases the sole breadwinners and decision makers. In a larger sense, that would apply to the country too. People needed a single power at the top to decide everything.

Today, if we look at family structures in Iran, in many cases there has been a shift in power. Women have taken a place at the top of the pyramid alongside men. They are decision makers and breadwinners, educated and open-minded. This makes Iranian society today more fertile for democracy and the present autocratic system less acceptable.

When women can’t openly protest in the streets, they find other ways to rebel. But in the end, they express their discontent.

A glimmer of hope in dark times

For now all that occupies Iranians’ minds is sadness and sorrow, and nothing can heal their wounds. But there was a single moment of hope after the protests ended. Ali Shahrokhi, head of the Legal Commission in Parliament, announced on June 23 that the parliament is reconsidering the Shiite law of stoning. Stoning is a capital punishment that can be meted out on any woman convicted of adultery. Iran has decreased its used considerably, but the punishment does still exist in the law. Talks of removing it from the country’s laws are gathering strength.

There is still a very long way to go for Iranian women, but it is interesting that the parliament brought the issue into more light after these tumultuous days, and especially after the death of Neda Agha-Soltan.

(The author of this essay is an Iranian journalist who lives in the area of Boston, Massachusetts . She asked that her name not be published as she fears negative repercussions when she returns to her native Iran.)

More GlobalPost dispatches about Iran:

Essay: The flight from Tehran

Radio free Iran

How to run a protest without Twitter